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Security law revision faces strong resistance

Posted January. 17, 2001 11:23,   


The proposed revision of the National Security Law is emerging again as a bone of contention.

Voices are being raised in some quarters of the ruling party and government that the change should be made before North Korea's strongman Kim Jong-Il visits Seoul. This is certain to touch off heated debate.

When he had lunch with members of Songwuhoe, an association of retired generals led by former army chief of staff Chung Sung-Hwa, on Monday the president reiterated his intention to amend the law, saying communist offenses could be dealt with by criminal law even after charges of encouraging or praising communism have been stricken out of the law.

Arguing that amendments to the National Security Law aim to remove such provisions that could be abused or misused as in the past, not to please North Korea, Kim stressed that we can no longer continue the Cold War and must move ahead toward reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea through dialogue.

Gen. Chung expressed outright opposition to the revamping or abolition of the law until Pyongyang gives up its policy of communizing the South because, he said, changing or scrapping it now would be tantamount to disarmament.

The United Liberal Democrat party (ULD), which revived its coalition ties with the ruling party, reaffirmed its party line against revising the law. Acting president Kim Chong-Hoh told the party caucus that the question ought to be settled between President Kim and his party chief Kim Jong-Pil upon hearing the opinions of ULD National Assemblymen and of the members of the party national security committee. Yet he drew the line by defining objection to either amendment or abolition as a party policy. The party clarified its stand during a consultative meeting with the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) held for the first time Jan. 12 following the restoration of the bipartisan partnership.

During his new year press conference Tuesday, Lee Hoi-Chang, leader of the opposition Grand National Party, repeated his warning: "As long as the dual character of the Korean situation persists and North Korea remains at once a dialogue counterpart and a hostile state, legal safeguards against such an adversary are necessary."

Changing the National Security Law now might cause serious splits of national opinion, he added.

In these circumstances, only President Kim and the MDP are enthusiastic about revising the law. Presence of substantial numbers of opponents makes an immediate reform of the law hardly likely. Moreover, some lawmakers have their own views on the law, different from their party lines. For instance, a few within the ruling party are opposed to its amendment.

Kim Chang-Hyuk chang@donga.com